Remember when Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo went on a commuter odyssey on October 11, 2019, as part of a challenge that would supposedly prove the Philippines doesn’t have a traffic crisis?
Unfortunately, Panelo himself (who was already running late that day) had to resort to riding on the back of a motorbike Angkas-style just so he could get to the Malacañang Palace.
Yet, even after experiencing what commuters go through every day, he still said that the country doesn’t have a traffic crisis and that Filipinos need only to be creative.
If by creative, Panelo meant riding a “habal-habal” or Angkas, then banning motorcycle taxis would be, in effect, taking away something that has helped many Filipino commuters exercise creativity every day.
It starts with the three-month pilot study the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the interagency Technical Working Group (TWG) recently launched to determine the safety of motorcycle taxis as a viable mode of transport that is now being called off.
The termination of the pilot study, according to TWG head Antonio Gardiola Jr., is due to court cases filed by Angkas that are disrupting the execution of the study. But is that really the problem?
When transport journalism advocate and CNN television host James Deakin was asked on behalf of the riding public during a Senate hearing on the matter what he thinks of the study being terminated, Deakin urged everyone to look at the issue as if it were a health crisis, wherein traffic is a disease our current transportation machines are not able to help cure anymore.
When it comes to the subject of safety, Deakin likened riding motorcycle taxis to consuming instant noodles and sardines — it is not exactly the best option, but during a state of calamity, it’s all we have and can make do with — a point Senator Grace Poe agreed with, mentioning the state of the Philippines’ rail transit systems.
“It’s not necessarily the safest, but it is something that we need at this time… We need alternative modes at this juncture when even our MRTs are not fully operational at a hundred percent. Our LRTs [are] not also a hundred percent and we’re still in the face of groundbreaking for our subways,” Senator Poe concurred.
Indeed, this is the same argument any commuter that uses ride-hailing services would make if they were asked how they work their way around the traffic problem in Manila.
Many of those who were present at the hearing agreed that the pilot study should be continued, including Former LTFRB board member Atty. Aileen Lizada who said that lack of data is not a valid reason to abandon the study.
“I would like to share that with Grab and Uber, we had a lot of birthing pains. We had a lot of difficulty getting data from Grab and Uber but we did not give up because we thought of the riding public at the end. I would like to encourage the technical working group to proceed,” said Atty. Lizada.
Atty. Lizada also made mention of the fact that Grab and Uber were fined five million pesos for not meeting the requirements of the LTFRB, and Uber another 190 million pesos for its violations, as well as the “several technical working group discussions” they had which ultimately allowed them to get the data they needed at that time.
“Just be a little more patient with them than overregulate, otherwise, kawawa ho ang mga mananakay. Kawawa ho iyong mga riders. We cannot tell them to put their lives on hold because they have families to feed, they have children to send to school. And what will we tell the riding public? Kasi wala tayong nakukuhang data—I think we need to take the extra mile, we being in government,” she added.
We think we can all agree that putting a ban on motorcycle taxis or any ride-hailing service for that matter, instead of seeing the pilot study through, will do more harm than good. And that if court cases are being an impediment to the pilot study, the ban on motorcycle taxis is going to be an impediment to our development as a country.
In a 2012 New York Times article, it was said that “a developed country is one in which rich people use public transport.” Indeed, if someone who has a nice car opts to ride public transportation, that would mean that person finds public transportation in the country he lives in more satisfactory than using his own vehicle.
We can only get to that point if the people who have the power to make the necessary changes step up to the plate and think of the bigger picture.